The beauty of the natural world finds a potent voice

Sequoia: Water Music: Source to Sea

The Strad Issue: June 2023

Description: The beauty of the natural world finds a potent voice

Musicians: Sequoia

Works: Music by Bach, Cooper, Fennessy, Green, Hopkins, MacRae, Robertson, Savage, Sibelius, South and Stout


There’s no faulting Scottish violin-and-cello duo Sequoia’s ambitions. Water Music: source to sea isn’t so much an audio release as a large-scale multimedia project, involving live performances, online videos and educational resources alongside its collection of music from Bach to new commissions and a scattering of folk tunes, all of it charting the imaginary journey of a raindrop from cloud to sea.

Even the music makes for a high-concept offering, with individual pieces run together in short thematic ‘sets’. It’s sometimes hard to tell where one stops and another starts, though elsewhere collisions of style and material are bracingly jarring. The rain-themed opening trio of pieces is a case in point: Sibelius’s barely minute-long pizzicato Water Drops segues imperceptibly into a brisk account of Bach’s Sixth Two-part Invention, which itself develops organically into Alastair Savage’s warm, glowing, folk-inspired End of Rain and Clear Sky. Violinist Alice Rickards soars in the trad-inspired material, with a rich vibrato but also a clipped clarity, while cellist Sonia Cromarty provides stomping bass-lines and nimble figurations, offering grand waves of unfolding harmony in the Prelude from Bach’s First Cello Suite to conclude the sea-themed set.

It’s a vividly delivered collection of music, one whose fluid traversal of styles nicely reflects its subject matter, from Timothy Cooper’s exquisite field recordings of rivers and waves to Stuart MacRae’s gloriously astringent the ebb. Rickards and Cromarty offer supple, buoyant playing of ringing purity throughout, captured in close, warm recorded sound.